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HDTV: Everyone's Still Confused!

Gordon Kelly


HDTV: Everyone's Still Confused!

When I look at the ratings for X-Factor, Big Brother and Celebrity x,y or z; when I check the album charts and the ghost towns formerly known as libraries (that's a biggie for me) I tend to draw the depressing conclusion that the vast majority of people are horrifyingly stupid. Now I know so...

This confirmation comes after research commissioned by LG revealed this week that an unforgiveable 25 per cent of the UK don't understand what High Definition is while - a more understandable - 80 per cent are confused by 'HD Ready' and 'Full HD'. LG also declares that 62 per cent of Brits "still don't own an HDTV" but given the confusion going on I'm frankly amazed it is this high.

Ok, time for a little name and shame before I don my more reasoned hat:

  • Yorkshire and Humberside have the lowest understanding of what HD is with 30 per cent of people surveyed believing that owning a TV with an HD Ready logo or a digital box would automatically make all content high definition

  • Scotland has the lowest adoption rate with 73 per cent of people still not owning an HDTV

  • After buying an HDTV, over 30 per cent of Londoners thought the reduction in picture quality was due to lighting conditions in the room rather than the lack of HD content running on the screen

  • 50 per cent of respondents in Yorkshire and Humberside thought that retailers used specially tuned high definition TVs to provide product demonstrations as the content quality wasn’t as good when they got it home - when in fact they were not watching HD content

On the plus side:

  • Wales has the highest understanding of HD with 90 per cent knowing how HD content is produced and viewed

  • East Anglia has the highest HD adoption rate with 50 per cent of people now owning an HDTV

Of course the full (HD? Sorry) picture isn't that simple and in all fairness the industry must shoulder the majority of the blame. 'HD Ready' was a hugely ambiguous marketing term that allowed the earliest HDTV manufacturers to get away with murder, while 'Full HD' (essentially meaning a higher resolution screen) has been grossly miss-sold as an essential feature when many of the best TVs (notably from plasma makers such as Pioneer) were not.

After all, did anyone ever tell you that Standard Definition (SD) pictures - the bulk of your TV viewing experience - generally look better on a mid-range HD Ready TV than a mid-range Full HD model? This is because they don't have to stretch (the technical term is upscale) the picture so far (think of blowing up a 4 x 6in photo 100 per cent or 200 per cent - which is likely to have the better quality?).

I bet no one ever told you SD pictures also, almost invariably, look better on your old, boxy CRT TV than they will on that swanky new HDTV you just bought. HDTVs are - believe it or not - primarily designed to show High Definition sources (eg, Sky HD, Blu-ray movies etc). So if you don't plan to watch a High Definition source or save space, don't bother upgrading.

For more of these wondrous titbits and a lot more about what HDTV is all about check out Riyad's thorough and very readable High Definition Guide which was published way back in July 2006.

Yep, we've been trying to tell you...


High Definition: The Big Picture (Riyad's thorough guide to HDTV)

Alistair B

August 22, 2008, 4:49 am

I was very disappointed to read that you thought "that the vast majority of people are horrifyingly stupid" because, amongst other things, they didn't understand how HD works. My wife has no idea about High Definition or technology in general but that is purely because she is not interested, not because she is stupid. Maybe it's all of us tech geeks who are stupid for wasting our lives on things that don't positively enhance our lives and if we think they do, we should get out more.


August 22, 2008, 5:10 am

@Alistair - think you are rather missing the point. For those with no interest why would they wish to understand the minutiae? But the reality is simple: HD = higher quality picture if you have the right TV and source to do so. What is so hard about that?

I doubt we "tech geeks" are wasting our lives... by the contrary I think only several minutes passed before we 'got it'.

The Mighty Ben

August 22, 2008, 5:59 am

@Gordon - You're being a little unfair IMO. There's more to understanding HD viewing than that. You have upscaling, dynamic-back-light-induced-contrast-ratio-something-or-other, interlaced and progressive. These are not the easiest concepts to visualize. Plus you now have to deal with unfamiliar cables - Toslink/component/HDMI, while some ports can accept 'deep colour' whatever that is when it's at home. You're right though, most people are horrifyingly stupid. It just has nothing to do with how tech-savvy they are. Intelligence is merely a measure of how capable one is at achieving happiness. For guys like us it happens to involve immersing ourselves in the most resplendent home cinema environment we can. I'm also saddened by the thought that some people are missing out due to a lack of understanding, but maybe they don't have the urge to because they're already happy with their lives the way they are? Let's not judge them! I'm no expert in oceanography, but that doesn't make me a dullard! Regards, TMB.


August 22, 2008, 6:53 am

@The Mighty Ben - I certainly get your point, though I do think - funnily enough - that you almost over complicate High Definition to emphasise your point. Let's put it this way:

1. An HDTV can produce higher quality pictures than a standard television but it needs an HD source to do so otherwise (typically) it's Standard Definition reproduction is nothing to write home about.

2. HDMI is the defacto connector for HDTV's and HD sources (Sky TV, Blu-ray players, PS3, etc) so you use that.

3. Actually I think that's about all!


PS - Not sure I agree "Intelligence is merely a measure of how capable one is at achieving happiness" given that most of the world's accepted geniuses were depressives and/or suicidal. Besides 'happiness' is subjective - some people are happy miserable! Ok, let's call a halt to this Philosophy 101 waffle!


August 22, 2008, 9:07 am

I'm sorry, but if you can't be asked to research enough about something your buying to at least understand how to make it work the best, then you are stupid.

I just bought a couple of AC units (yes, I don't live in the UK), I didn't really know much about it, but I did some research and quite easily found the information I needed to make a half educated purchase.

The same goes for something like this, go online and spend 30 minutes of your life reading about it and then you can at least make more of an educated choice than walking into Dixon's and be told by the completley useless sales person to buy the one he gets the biggest comission for.

I've seen this over and over in the UK, people walk in to one of the big chain stores, have an idea of what they want, but walk out with something totally different because the sales guy told them that that is what they needed.

I don't think Gordon called anyone specific stupid, he just meant people in general are stupid because they're so willing to part with their money without really knowing what they're buying.

@Allistair, your wife is lucky she has you, as you can make an educated purchase and she doesn't have to worry about getting the wrong thing, so she's not stupid, she's in fact very smart as she relies on someone that actually knows what's going on.

Hamish Campbell

August 22, 2008, 12:58 pm

I do happen to understand all the HD rubbish, though I have not bought an HDTV.

But one thing I am a little surprised at....is there really not a new LCD HDTV that can reproduce (with all its glorious fancy smancy upscaling tech) a standard definition source as well as a CRT. I understand the difficulties it faces, and have seen the orrible results on cheap LCD screans, but thought the newest and greatest had enough grunt and smarts under the hood to do a decent job.

Hamish Campbell

August 22, 2008, 1:01 pm

Actually while I'm at it.

The cable companies are trying to convince us all here (Denmark but presumably everywhere) that switching to a digital signal will improve the picture on an HDTV screen. OK maybe there is a missed analogue/digital conversion ? maybe, but the info is the same, there is no more picture information, so I don't see how its gonna look better.

Maybe they are alluding to the fact they send more true 16:9 images rather than letter boxing films and sport.

Geoff Richards

August 22, 2008, 1:25 pm

If I dare wade in, I would draw parallels with the masses (read Average Joe / Josephine USA) who are obsessed with "buyin' a Hybrid" to improve their MPG. Toyota has sold thousands upon thousands of Prius cars off the back of un-informed people equating them to *automatic* improvements in fuel economy.

Yes, a Prius can produce great "gas mileage" when driven appropriately. However, just as an HD TV fed with crappy SD content can result in rubbish image quality, several independent tests have proven that you can actually get relatively poor economy from a Prius, beaten by many ultra-frugal diesels. (which again is like HD Ready beating Full HD if you're doing it wrong).

As for calling people "stupid", I'm sure Gordon didn't mean it as a personal attack. Merely labelling anyone as "unwise" if they fork over huge wads of cash without taking 5 minutes to understand the Pros & Cons. And that applies just as much to Hybrid cars as it does to HDTVs.


August 22, 2008, 1:39 pm

"Most people are stupid"....????

No. Most people are average, whether you are measuring intelligence, or height. Unless you believe that the minority of non-stupid people are way cleverer than the stupid people are stupid. Which begs the question, what happened to all the in-between-ers?

Although I feel quite smug with my clever repartee here, what I really think is that everyone is making too much of a fuss about something which was probably said as an off-the-cuff comment. Right?


August 22, 2008, 2:11 pm

Statistics, statistics...

It really does make a huge difference how the quoted statistics were collected, and from what sample size. If, for example, the research company were talking to people who'd just purchased a digital TV and the sample-size was significant, then yes you could describe a lack of knowledge about your purchase as being stupid. On the other hand, if this was another of those clip-board-on-the-street-outside-a-shopping-centre surveys, then the stats are pretty-much meaningless. You couldn't call the pensioner who sticks with their trusted Grundig CRT stupid for not knowing about something they have no intention or ability to buy.

Lets not jump down Gordon's throat though for a glib comment - we all do it now and then.


August 22, 2008, 2:33 pm

""Most people are stupid"....????

No. Most people are average, whether you are measuring intelligence, or height."

Wrong. Yes they may be average, but the average may be stupid. Not a very clever repartee imho.

Anyway I agree that most people don't know the basics about HD TV. However this alone does not make them stupid. You have to look at their other antics :P.


August 22, 2008, 2:35 pm

Just to make it clearer; Intelligence level is independant of demography.


August 22, 2008, 3:49 pm

The surveys should have had a question "Did you buy your HDTV because it was cool and flat looking.. rather than it actually being high definition?"


August 22, 2008, 4:36 pm

@Paul - right ;)


August 22, 2008, 5:36 pm

Personally I won't be buying an HDTV until a) the broadcasts I'm receiving through my aerial are in HD, which might be never b) the prices drop sharply, which they are bound to do.


August 22, 2008, 5:42 pm

It's a fairly complicated area - you can't just go out and buy stuff and expect it all to work together at the moment.

Paul Nicolson

August 22, 2008, 5:53 pm

when I purchased my panny th42 something a round 4 years ago it was HD ready, with a 720 max screen res. I feel I have the best of both worlds as it displays SD pictures a gem and bluray looks great along with bbc HD.

I did a little bit of future proofing.

A lot got caught out


August 22, 2008, 6:36 pm

@Xiphias - that's exactly the message the manufacturers should be delivering...

@Paul Nicolson - spot on Paul, 720p is a much underrated standard and unless you can spend a bomb on an ultra high end TV then it'll do a better job with standard definition than a low/mid-range 1080p set.


August 22, 2008, 6:37 pm

PS - loving this average/stupid debate ;)

Hamish Campbell

August 22, 2008, 6:48 pm

I'm voting for replacing IQ Tests with the HD Knowledge Index as the new standard in intelligence.

ps. nobody answered my questions boohoo. Guess I'll have to 'research' it so I'm not all 'stupid'.


August 22, 2008, 6:56 pm

@haim - Yes, a digital signal should provide a better picture.


August 22, 2008, 9:31 pm

You are all horrifyingly stupid! The glaring error in this report is the ratings for...Celebrity x,y or z. ;) I am suprised no one took offence to Gordon's intentional dig at different parts of the country. High Def is brilliant but if you haven't seen it then you don't know what you're missing.


August 22, 2008, 10:52 pm

@DEB - the different parts of the country are specifically listed from the LG report and yes, I get your irony. Just spelling it out to be sure ;)

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